Tucked away in the corner of my grandparent's hay field is a magical place. Hidden behind a thicket of brush and trees is a small clearing and in it a hidden gem of a wild apple tree. This tree is by far the best wild apple tree I've ever come across, producing large delicious apples year after year. They are the perfect apple for pies, apple crisp, and especially applesauce, which we preserve so that we can enjoy the sweet apple taste of fall even in the dark winter months.
When I was little, the women of my family would walk to the tree, collect apples, and preserve them and bake with them. I remember the walk back to the tree seemed so long back then, though it's only just a short distance. I can still feel the sun on my brown and freckled face, the heaviness of the bucket of apples, and I can see my family around me as we walked the dirt road back home after harvest. It's a special tree that I have many fond memories of, so it's not surprising that as an adult I returned back to that tree with my own family.
Last year we were able to preserve enough applesauce to provide our family until April. Our preferred method is to freeze it, and it has worked great for us! We will be returning to the magical tree in the fall to harvest and preserve for our family once again. But last year we had an experience that changed the name of the tree to "The Pig Tree"- one I'll never forget and continue to laugh about today.
We pulled up alongside the edge of the field and unloaded the kids. As we started the walk towards the apple tree to collect our harvest, I took in the beauty of the field as I took a deep breath of fresh air. I heard a quiet grumble noise as I walked, but I figured it must be the man who owned the property down the way using a fourwheeler. I continued to walk, grabbing my son's hand, excited to get to the tree. I noticed D had stopped behind me and was listening. "Do you hear that?" he asked me. I told him I did, but that I thought it was probably just the neighbor up the road. He started walking again, but stayed behind us continuing to listen.
"Sadie," he said, "Look." Behind us, entering the field was the largest pig I've ever seen. Grunting with her head on the ground, this big lady was enjoying some of the other wild apples along the field's edge. I immediately tensed up a bit, not knowing if she was a boar or a sow (we know now she's friendly and a she-pig!) and worried that she might not be so nice. I chuckled nervously at Danny, and we watched her a bit. But then when she saw us, she started to trot our way and I lost all composure and rational thinking and went into survival mode. In my head, we were now being attacked by a killer pig who wanted to eat us. Instinctively, I threw the kids up into a tree, which was a very small little pine tree that the pig easily could have reached us if she wanted to, but it was the best I could do at the time. Once the kids were secured, I climbed the tree myself and we watched as D tried to fend off this huge beast, which basically involved him walking around her telling her to "Get!". Eventually, the pig began to make her way away from the field, and D came and helped us down from the tree. I felt it was best to not harvest apples that day, and so we headed back towards the car, each of us carrying a kid, through the swampy wooded area rather than back through the field. When the pig noticed where we were walking, she too entered the tall grass. Now it was like we were in the movie Jaws except the water was grass and the shark was a pig. We couldn't see her, had no idea where she was, and I was still convinced at the moment that she was going to try to eat us. We walked faster and faster, rushing to get back to the car. When we made it, we threw in the children and slammed the doors- my heart beating in my ears. D and I looked at each other and both began to laugh realizing the humor in the situation and recognizing that there really was no real danger. The kids really didn't know what to think, and I guess neither did we!
This spring, when we walked back to see our old friend the apple tree, C asked, "Do you think we'll have to watch out for the pig? I'm sure glad it wasn't a bear." Me too, kid. Me too.
It makes for a great memory and a laugh, and it earned the tree its new nickname: The Pig Tree.
It's these types of memories, memories from living simply, living in the moment, and being with my children that I'll cherish forever.
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